WATER Polo has become the talk of Webbcona Bowling Club with members closely tied to the progress of the Aussie Sharks in Tokyo.
Webbcona bowler Rob Edwards' sons Blake and Lachlan are in their Olympic debut and, having visited their dad at the club multiple times, have been quickly adopted into the fold.
Were it not for pandemic restrictions, Mr Edwards knows his house would have been full with both televisions going for matches. So far, there has been a flurry of text messages from fellow bowlers when his boys hit the pool.
A proud Mr Edwards is a former international water polo player, having reached the 1978 world championships, but swapped the pool for the bowling greens when he moved to Ballarat from Melbourne a few years ago.
There's a lot of people who are so excited they know them.Rob Edwards
"My boys have all been down to Ballarat to the bowls club and mixed in with people so there's a lot of people who are so excited they know them," Mr Edwards said. "I'm pretty excited about them making the team and really relieved too. They've both been training so hard and all the sacrifices they've made - they had to leave home to pursue their sport."
Lachlan, age 26, is the Sharks' powerful centre-forward at 196 centimetres tall. Mr Edwards said Lachlan is the one who does the "heavy-lifting" for the team, taking a lot of close attention from rivals, but also proving agile in the water for his size.
He was recruited to University of Southern California's water polo program and negotiated for his older brother Blake to join him.
Mr Edwards first dived into the sport as a swimmer who, when in the pool at Cheltenham one day, saw a girl and her father throwing a ball about. He loved team sports and the rest, he said, was history.
In a decorated water polo career, Mr Edwards also captained Victoria for four years, coached at the Victorian Institute of Sport and coached national league club Brisbane Barracudas.
All four of his sons watched Mr Edwards play late in his career and wanted to follow him into the sport. He signed them up for swimming squads first and all four won Victorian swim titles before progressing into water polo. The younger three, including Blake and Lachlan, joined him at Melbourne Collegians and his eldest son gradually came across so they could play together.
Blake and Lachlan started playing when they were about eight years old in under-12 competition and both made the Sharks' squad before the Rio Games but did not receive an Olympic call-up until Tokyo.
They ring up and talk about it but I don't give advice - they just want me to listen because I understand what they're going through.Rob Edwards
"They're training seven days a week, up to six hours a day in the gym, swimming, skill work and match simulation," Mr Edwards said.
"I'm lucky because I played and did all that, I understand the effort required and the ups and downs of it all. They ring up and talk about it but I don't give advice - they just want me to listen because I understand what they're going through."
IN OTHER NEWS
The Australian men were in a tough competition pool, featuring power-nations Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia, but had to finish top five with Spain and Kazakhstan to progress to the next stage.
Mr Edwards said pandemic travel restrictions put the Australians at a disadvantage to neighbouring European nations like Montenegro and Croatia, which could still have hit-outs leading up to Tokyo.
But the Sharks had still been able to train.
Mr Edwards looked forward to his sons' homecoming. He hoped to take them to meet the Ballarat juniors playing water polo to share what they learned in Tokyo.
- Australia Sharks next play Serbia on Wednesday night, Spain on Saturday morning and Kazakhstan on Monday night before a hopeful quarter-final berth.
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